It’s the topic on every meeting professional’s mind: technology. As the audiovisual landscape grows more sophisticated with new bells and whistles, forward-thinking organizations are investigating new opportunities to better leverage technology when they bring members, customers or employees together face-to-face.
PCMA is no exception. At Convening Leaders 2015, the education and events teams worked with Freeman to explore how the new wave of technology can transform the on-site experience. From captivating general session attendees with projection mapping to engaging overflow audiences with digital signage outside concurrent sessions, the program featured a range of new innovations. Here’s a look at five key lessons from those technologies.
1) Technology cannot transform an event all by itself.
Early adoption of new tools can elevate an experience, but does using technology automatically translate to a successful program? No.
“The industry has been guilty of putting technology out there just for technology’s sake,” Jim Russell, Senior Vice President, Sales, Freeman, says.
Instead, Russell highlights that understanding technology needs starts with outlining the event’s objectives.
“It’s not about using the most technology at an event,” Russell adds. “It’s about using the right technology.”
At Convening Leaders, Freeman identified projection mapping as the correct tool to help achieve PCMA’s goals. In contrast to hard sets, Russell says projection mapping provides the flexibility to change the look and feel with ease. From showcasing the host city of Chicago with a skyline view to displaying the harbor in Vancouver to promote the conference in 2016, projection mapping ensured that each minute of the general session aligned with relevant content and sponsor messages.
On an equally important note, the technology overcame the biggest potential hurdle in today’s conference environment: digital distraction.
“If we don’t create a compelling experience, attendees will quickly turn to their personal work,” Russell says. “Projection mapping connects with the senses to eliminate potential distractions.”
2) Short-term budget concerns should not overshadow long-term benefits.
This year’s line items are important to keep under control, but paying for some of those expenses in the short-term can pay big dividends in the future.
“Planners should think of technology as a long-term investment rather than an immediate cost,” Russell says.
For example, if the technology does make attendees more engaged, will it start to drive more attendance? If the technology captivates on-site media attendees, will the meeting gain positive traction in reviews and social media buzz?
3) The investment doesn’t have to feel overwhelming.
While a long-term investment can pay off, meeting professionals will still need to secure approval to commit more funds toward new technology. Luckily, Russell says that technology can accommodate an organization’s size and budget.
“You can create projection mapping with just one projector,” Russell says. “You can accomplish the look and feel of Convening Leaders without using the entire ballroom.”
Outside of projection mapping, Russell says that many meeting professionals are using LED to inject more energy into their general session environments.
“The price point of LED is coming down,” Russell says. “It’s more affordable than some people realize.”
As meeting professionals explore new possibilities, Russell reminds them that costs vary depending on the size of the event and the number of team members necessary to run the on-site production.
“The great thing is that most ideas are scalable for any size show in any industry,” Russell says.
4) The next generation of innovation is always arriving.
While projection mapping and LED may be two of the current most talked-about tools, event technology is always changing.
“Second screen technology is establishing a major presence at industry events,” Russell says. “We have found when attendees know they will be asked to participate in a presentation—through polling, thumbs up or down, multiple choice questions, sliding scales to agree or disagree, and open text for note taking—the audience is more likely to stay engaged in the session.”
To capitalize on that increased engagement, Freeman recently launched FXP Touch. The product puts the power of a meeting into the hands of the entire audience in the room — not just the presenter.
“We need to strive for many talking to many rather than one talking to many,” Russell says. “There are always so many good insights from the attendees sitting in the audience. FXP Touch gives people a voice who may not go to a microphone. Instead, they can chime in from the privacy and security of their own devices.”
Outside of tools that let attendees keep swiping their own screens, Russell adds that Freeman launched a new interactive charging table called ReCharge, which features touchscreen capabilities. As attendees charge their devices, two built-in 12-inch monitors allow them to view a range of video messaging on programs and sponsor messaging.
5) Technology paves the way to bigger insights.
Technology does more than capture attendees’ attention. It also captures a massive amount of information on their behaviors and their preferences.
“One of the biggest benefits of these technologies is that they can provide plenty of data about what attendees like,” Russell says.
“The analytics that come from these tools are just as important as the tools themselves,” Russell adds. “They’re the fuel that help us plan better meetings.”
Want a closer look at the Convening Leaders experience? Check out this behind-the-scenes glimpse.